DESCRIPTION: Varices appear as red, blue, or deep purple broad-based elevations in oral mucosa. The size is usually less than 5 mm. The buccal mucosa is a common place to find them, however, they are also found in lip mucosa and ventral and lateral mucosa of the tongue and floor of the mouth. On ventral tongue they are apt to be multiple and the term "caviar tongue" has been commonly used to describe them. They are seen more commonly in the elderly.
ETIOLOGY: A varix is a distended vein that elevates the overlying mucosa. The reason for venous distention is unclear but may be related to weakening of the vessel wall secondary to aging.
TREATMENT: None usually required. They often thrombose but this is of little clinical consequence.
DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS: Mucocele, hemangioma and angina bullosa hemorragica.